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Palmerton OKs $21M school plan

Published July 22. 2015 04:00PM

Palmerton Area School District will forge ahead with a $21 million renovation project, complete with a junior high cafeteria, turf field, and stadium improvements.

On an 8-1 measure, the school board on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to authorize the projects and to engage Barry Isett & Associates as prime professional for design, bid phase and construction phase services.

Director Susan Debski cast the sole vote in opposition to the project.

After the meeting, Debski said she voted against the project because of the stadium improvements.

"I think the whole project is 100-percent needed, except the all-weather track," Debski said.

"I just thought at this point in time it's something we cannot afford."

In a related matter, the board unanimously agreed to authorize administration to work with Public Financial Management as independent financial adviser in conjunction with the project.

Public comment

About 15 community members attended the meeting to find out about the project.

Resident Maynard Silliman, as he has in the past, again expressed reservations with the multipurpose turf field.

Silliman told the board his belief is that football, or any sports, for that matter, "should not be funded through the taxpayers."

Silliman said the high school built in 1964 is fairly old.

"How long do you expect that to stand up?

Superintendent Scot Engler told Silliman that the renovation project will remodel facilities districtwide.

Silliman then delved into the district's financing options.

"A bond is practically the same thing as a mortgage," he said.

Board President Tammy Recker read off the list of improvements included in the renovation project.

Recker told Silliman every building throughout the district would receive upgrades.

"What concerns me is the future," said Silliman, who added that he loves Palmerton. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."

Silliman said he would like see a new high school built.

Resident George Ashman said he agreed with Silliman on the football field.

Scope of project

The renovation project will consist of a $13 million junior high school expansion that will create a cafeteria and kitchen solely for the junior high.

Currently, the district runs grades seven through 12 lunches in its high school cafeteria, which has limited options for scheduling lunches and classes.

Creation of a new multiuse media center and television studio, new computer space, a new high school gym floor and a series of offices are other components of the project.

The project will also install chillers and replace unit vent heaters at the high school, Towamensing Elementary School, and S.S. Palmer Elementary, and calls for safety and security improvements districtwide.

A state-of-the-art multipurpose turf field will cost $2.3 million, and be located at the current football field and track site at the high school stadium.

Visitors' bleachers will be added.

Security improvements are included, but Engler would not release the specifics or the cost of the improvements,

Engler said the renovation project process began back in November.

He added the project could be done within the district's existing debt service of $1.7 million per year.

Michael Kelly, an architect with KCBA Architects of Hatfield, said earlier this month that the project will follow an "aggressive schedule."

The design phase for the building and site would take place from August through October, with construction documents drawn and land development from November through June 2016.

Contracts would be bid between July-August 2016. Construction would be from September 2016 through August 2017.

About the renovations

Palmerton Area School District's $21 million districtwide renovation project:

Junior high: $13 million

All-weather track: $2.3 million

S.S. Palmer HVAC system: $2 million

Junior/Senior window replacement: $900,000

Towamensing HVAC: $800,000

Junior high boiler: $500,000

High school gym floor: $300,000

Water main pumps: $180,000

Parkside building rear entrance canopy: $15,000

Security improvements: Superintendent Scot Engler declined to release any of the specifics.

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